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MusicMan SUB RAY4 - how I fixed clipping int preamp :)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by StoneArc, Jul 19, 2012.

  1. StoneArc


    Jul 19, 2012
    Hi Everyone

    **UPDATE - I fixed what I thought was bum electronics.. by lowering my pickup height as far as it goes. Sounds great my last post shows what I did with audio clips **

    I have been lurking on this forum and looking for some advice to my issue. I'd just like to preface this post by saying I am not an expert in bass gear by any means, I have been playing bass for about 15 years and have had the same rig for the last 10 years. I do not even know exactly what model of bass I play, I know that it is a Yamaha RBX series, active with 3 band EQ. I am a basic rock player who uses a heavy handed pick. I wanted to buy a bass for home, instead of lugging my Yamaha from the rehearsal studio. I was just going to get a "no name whatever" online, but then the MusicMan SUB series caught my eye, they were so cheap it made me wonder why I didn't just pony up a bit more cash and get a nice bass instead a cheapie for practice? The Sub was only a couple hundred more.

    I am a recording engineer, I ran my own studio for 7 years and I remember MusicMan bass sounds always impressing me. They had that "pro" bottom end that made recordings sound expensive, and I always thought they sounded very balanced across the neck, something I was critical of other basses including my Yamaha. It is OK when I EQ around it but there seems to be a big divide between the E and A string tones.

    There are a lot of great reviews of the SUB series, and when an online shop gave me a price that was hard to beat and no retail shop would have one until September, I got a SUB RAY4-BK delivered. Unfortunately right out of the box it had issues - I could hear a bad rattle/vibration when the E string was played open or 1st fret. Long story short it went back to the shop and the luthier confirmed it was the truss rod vibrating. The other one they had in stock had the same issue. This was not inspiring. They had one other, the walnut finish model. This played great, and testing it into a little amp they had in store, it seemed OK - they let me exchange and I took it to rehearsal.

    I have played the Walnut one for 3 days now I don't get it... It distorts its own internal preamp? I have done several wiring setups and gain positions, external compressors and pads, fresh super heavy duty batteries, fresh leads and check for scratchy pots.. nothing stops the low notes farting out from preamp overload. I thought MusicMan basses were rock - but you would have to play very light handed on this bass to stop clipping. No way a pick player who does fast stuff will stop the farts.

    The output on this bass is incredible, it is closer to line level than a low impedance guitar output. Even with the output volume jack on 5% I am getting peaks that are very hot. But even with good gain staging and levels that give good tone, as soon as I dig in with the pick, think a Motorhead riff, it is clipping and losing dynamics, the leading transient, a bad sound. Recording the bass straight in via DI shows the same crappy sound when I play with a bit of balls on the E string. I have tried straight into my bass pod and other amp sims.. but everything has the sound of the bass preamp clipping which sends a crap sound all the way down the line.. A sound my audio engineer ear associates with cheap active basses.

    It is such a shame, as the tone of this bass when it doesn't clip is really interesting. It is worlds away from my Yamaha but this is good, it broadens my tone options in my band. Playing the SUB on the A string and above, wow. Very clear top end and I cut through the band in loud rock rehearsals. But it seems to not handle me rocking out on an open e string..?

    I am going to take it back to the shop but thought I would ask the forum for any tips, things I'm missing or can try before I assume I have a crappy cheap bass and start the hunt again?

    Thanks for any advice.
  2. Set up and pickup height are the first thing that cross my mind.

    These are very hot basses that need to be tamed and the clank factor controlled.
  3. and no pics
  4. StoneArc


    Jul 19, 2012
    I have been reading that pickup height can help here, how hard is this to do? Will do some internet research, thanks for the tip.

    What is that about pics? Sorry I am new, should I have pics of the bass?
  5. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Pickkup height was the first thing that came to mind for me too. Not hard at all. Just need a small phillips head screwdriver and adjust the screws aournd the pickup accordingly.

    The other first thing that popped into my mind :) is the battery. You may have a weak battery in there that's causiing the distortion. Try putting a new battery in.

    Lastly, what's up with stores having a bunch of MM subs? They were discontinued years ago. Did they just start putting them out again? It's rare that you'd find even one of them hanging in a store. 3? And others saying they'll have them in stock in a few months? Did I miss something here?
  6. Fliptrique


    Jul 22, 2002
    Szczecin, Poland
    Endorsing Artist: Mayones Guitars&Basses
    MM pups are VERY hot and due to being a bit heavy-handed myslef I had them lowered A LOT in every bass with a MM style pickup I`ve owned.
  7. It's the new Sterling SUB lineup releasing overseas first. Like the RAY34 and RAY35 series but cheaper.
  8. StoneArc


    Jul 19, 2012
    I think they have been brought back, cheaper - http://www.sterlingbymusicman.com/sub-basses-international

    OK I have just watched a few videos on pickup adjustment, it looks easy I am going to try this in the morning (I am in Australia, 1:30am here ATM).

    These pickups are so freaking hot! I think I will need to drop the pickups as far down as they go.. will experiment.

    I have new heavy duty batteries in there, yeah I thought it could be weak battery too, my Yamaha starts to fart a bit on low notes when it needs new juice.

    Here is hoping a pickup lowering will get rid of the clipping. Thanks for the posts, this forum has some great info.
  9. Please let us know what you do and how it goes. We tend to learn as well from our speculative posts.
  10. StoneArc


    Jul 19, 2012
    Definitely will, will get some photos of before and after, and will post some audio clips.
  11. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    I'm not an expert on these kinds of electronics, buuutttt...

    I also voted for weak battery, but I guess that wasn't it.

    If this bass' own passive pickups are clipping the internal pre-amp, that is an unacceptable design flaw. If the engineers who put together that circuitry even THOUGHT that could happen, they should have either re-designed it with more "headroom" or put in a trim pot to adjust the levels. That's terrible design.
  12. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    on an oscilloscope--- is it clipped?

    Measure the DC voltage that supplies the preamp--
    is it getting loaded down?

    It's possible that the opamp is ng. :crying:
  13. StoneArc


    Jul 19, 2012
    I hope it is my bone headed rock picking style playing that is at fault, and the pickup lowering will help. I often will run my bass into a Line6 Bass Pod then into my bass amp and this MusicMan clips the Pod at like 5 - 10% volume.. I've never seen any bass clip it before.

    Will report on the result of pickups lowered tomorrow.
  14. LOL.

    Doesn't your POD have a -15db input gain switch.

    Methinks we found the culprit.

  15. StoneArc


    Jul 19, 2012
    All these tests I've done without POD in the mix.. I'm talking an old school kidney POD here too :) so no Pad switch. As I mentioned earlier I have done tests as direct Di recording and straight into the bass head, all same issue. Let's see what lowering the pickups does tomorrow.
  16. FrenchBassQC

    FrenchBassQC Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Gatineau QC CA
    I don't know about the preamp in that bass but I know that most of the preamps I have installed on some of my basses had a gain control and when it is set too high, it will make the bass clipping at the preamp level. If you look at the preamp in the bass, look for a plastic screw, most of the time it is blue and if you find one, simply turn it to find the appropriate level.

    Just in case this would be your situation. :)
  17. StoneArc


    Jul 19, 2012
    Thanks for the tip, I've seen a video online that mentioned that you can tweak the pre amp level. Will see if I can find it.
  18. StoneArc


    Jul 19, 2012

    As promised some images.

    I am done work for the day and am in the recording studio with nothing but myself and my rig to tweak. I am going to attempt the pickup adjustment first. Here is some shots of the current setup, kinda hard to tell from the photos how close the string is to the pickups but it is quite close - my smallest allen key doesn't fit between string and pole:

    Here is an audio clip of the DI output from my bass head. I have really checked all gain stages, my bass volume is barely on. I start peddling (with a plectrum) on the E string (tuned to D) really light, you hear no cliping. Then I go normal pick hand pressure and you will hear the farts. I repeat that again.. soft then normal. Finally I play one of the riffs from my band, total clipping. This amount of aggression is no problem for the Yamaha.

    SO... now I have captured the "before" stats.. I am going to adjust pickup height and see what changes. Report back.

    Attached Files:

  19. StoneArc


    Jul 19, 2012

    I lowered the pickup a fair bit. I plugged back in and tested - very big improvement!! It was still ever so slightly farting when playing really heavy, so as you can see above I went looking for an internal setting for gain. I could not find anything here (there is no panel on the back) so maybe it is under the scratch plate? Bit of a mission to get in there.. so instead I thought I would lower the pickups as far as they would go and see how that was.

    This is as low as she goes - and BOOYA! :hyper: No clipping! The output is much lower, I can run the bass volume a good 75% now and not have anything clip. I had me pre amps and recording levels still set from that clip I did on my previous post - it showed a much lower output. This was all looking great, and SOUNDING beautiful. It actually made the bass a touch less bright, which was something I was a bit concerned about. It really now sounds inspiring..!

    I need to run a full setup now though, intonation not perfect. Then I can get into the task of really learning this bass and figuring out it's strengths and some presets on the Bass POD that compliment my songs. New audio clip attached.

    Thanks for your posts.. gonna be a good weekend now. :bassist:

    Attached Files:

  20. I believe the saying goes "Good on ya, mate."

    I'm still interested to hear more about the possibility of a gain control on MusicMan preamps? I own one of the first generation SUBs. Experts, please chime in: Do MM preamps have a gain control?

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